The King Center hosts its first in-person ‘Be Love Day’ event

At the King Center on Sunday, April 4, 2021, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s family holds a wreath-laying ceremony on the 53rd anniversary of the assassination of the civil rights leader.  Melinda Latson of Fayettville, N.C. (left), joins hands with a stranger, Sylvia Swindell (right), who sings "We Shall Overcome" with the group. (Photo: Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Credit: Jenni Girtman

At the King Center on Sunday, April 4, 2021, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s family holds a wreath-laying ceremony on the 53rd anniversary of the assassination of the civil rights leader. Melinda Latson of Fayettville, N.C. (left), joins hands with a stranger, Sylvia Swindell (right), who sings "We Shall Overcome" with the group. (Photo: Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change is having its first in-person “Be Love Day” Friday.

The annual event, first held in 2021, previously existed as a social media campaign and virtual series promoting the application of love toward the achievement of justice.

This year’s event will also examine issues like voter suppression, education, immigration, economic and social justice.

James Grimes teaches his grand-nephews about nonviolence at The King Center in Atlanta on Juneteenth, Monday, June 19, 2023. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

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Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Bonita Hampton-Smith, The King Center’s chief operating officer, said the hybrid event includes programs and activities reiterating and fulfilling Dr. King’s ideas of a “Beloved Community,” where injustice ceases but love prevails.

“We wanted to make sure we start at home in Atlanta, keep a global mindset, and inspire people to embody love by choosing their community over chaos,” Hampton-Smith said.

Bonita Hamilton-Smith, The King Center's chief operating officer, has been with the living memorial and nonprofit organization located in Atlanta, Georgia since 2016.

Credit: The King Center

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Credit: The King Center

“Be Love Day” kicks off at 9 a.m. with an Interfaith Prayer for Global Peace in the Coretta Scott King Peace and Meditation Garden. The 45-minute service, streaming on the King Center’s social media channels and website, intends to connect people of various faiths and denominations with moments of silence and prayers over conflicts currently spanning the globe.

The King Center is also hosting on-site voter registration the entire day. In addition to applying for a voter registration card, attendees can check their voter status and update their registration if needed.

Hampton-Smith said creating social change through love begins with voting for compassionate people in local elections, who share similar philosophies as the communities they serve.

“Local change means having people in office who put humanity first because those things impact our lives. We have to have leaders in office who are love-centered and reflect our value system, to make sure they’re putting policies in place that can move people forward,” she said.

The back-to-school service project will have food trucks, face painting, and Pelican’s SnoBalls shaved ice. The Center plans to give 1,000 students special backpacks with school supplies.

There will also be a children’s story time, with author Sedara Burson reading from “Zealous Zora,” her children’s storybook about kids practicing self-care, self-love, and treating others kindly. The reading event will be accompanied by a puppet show featuring Meeka the Bunny and led by puppeteer Jimmica Collins.

Hampton-Smith said the kids’ programs are entertaining ways to get young people to consider becoming change agents at an early age.

“We want to reach children where they are, and you have to start early in training children with a love-centered consciousness and demonstrate those actions toward others.” Hampton-Smith said.

Students attend The King Center's Beloved Community International Expo on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Credit: The King Center

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Credit: The King Center

The King Center’s social-justice-themed ReThink Podcast is taping a special live episode on addressing global conflict through Dr. King’s nonviolence teachings. The live taping will feature Bernice King, the King Center’s Chief Executive Officer, and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, assistant director of Yale’s Center for Public Theology and Public Policy, as special guests.

The podcast will be followed by a workshop and lecture led by Hampton-Smith and West, offering insight on incorporating Dr. King’s ideas on love in one’s personal, social and professional life.

During the afternoon, “Be Love Day” will also host a world premiere of “The Principle,” a short film about cyberbullying, starring Grammy-nominated country singer Mickey Guyton. Following the screening, Guyton, Bernice King, the film’s director John Viscount and actor Malcolm-Jamal Warner will participate in a panel discussion on the film and ways to challenge bullying.

Hampton-Smith said the film and panel are efforts to get youth to use social media and technology in productive ways.

“Our children are on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube, and cyberbullying can cause anxiety, depression and suicide. The conversation gives them tools to raiseawareness and address this form of violence online they may encounter,” she said.

“Be Love Day” closes with a concert from singer Jade Novah. Van Van, child performer-turned-viral sensation, and Heiress Harris, daughter of rapper T.I. and Xscape member Tameka “Tiny” Harris, are her opening acts.

Heiress Harris, left, and Van Van perform during the BET Awards on Sunday, June 30, 2024, at the Peacock Theater in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Credit: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

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Credit: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Hampton-Smith said “Be Love Day” should hopefully empower, encourage and inspire people to use alternate measures besides violence to create social change.

“We can create a just, equitable and peaceful world where people are valued and treated with dignity and respect, but love is the only pathway that will get us there,” she said.

9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Friday, July 12. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, 449 Auburn Avenue, Atlanta. 404-526-8900


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